Just a coincidence, or a quid pro quo? The confluence of money and influence usually works in the opposite direction for the Clintons and their “charitable” efforts, but the Washington Free Beacon’s latest discovery suggests some flexibility in the Clintonian modus operandi. Through the Clinton’s separate fund for charitable giving, the couple donated $100,000 to a charity run by the New York Times in 2008 — the same year that Arthur Sulzberger overrode his editorial board to deliver the paper’s endorsement to Hillary Clinton:
A little-known private foundation controlled by Bill and Hillary Clinton donated $100,000 to the New York Times’ charitable fund in 2008, the same year the newspaper’s editorial page endorsed Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, according to tax documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. …
The Times’ editorial board endorsed Clinton against Democratic challengers John Edwards and Barack Obama on January 25, 2008, writing that she was “more qualified, right now, to be president.”
At the time, there were reports that the Times board had leaned toward endorsing Obama, but was overruled by then-chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., whose family controlled the paper. Sulzberger’s cousins and Times Company directors, Lynn Dolnick and Michael Golden, chaired the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund in 2008.
The Clinton Family Foundation did not list the specific date the donation was made in its public tax disclosure forms. Neither the Times nor a representative of the Clintons responded by press time to a request for comment. Clinton ended her presidential campaign on June 7, 2008.
Both the New Republic and Vanity Fair reported that Sulzberger forced a reversal by the editorial board, a story that the NYT’s editorial editor claimed was “completely false.” The sizable donation was part of $2.4 million dispersed by the CFF in 2008, $1 million of which went to the Clinton Foundation, unsurprisingly the biggest beneficiary of the CFF, a completely separate entity from the Clinton Foundation. The NYT reports that annual contributions to the Neediest Cases Fund come to $6 million a year, so a $100,000 donation would be a significant portion of their fundraising.
However, the question here is whether the gift came before the endorsement, or afterward. If it came afterward, the Clintons could be forgiven for feeling generous to the NYT’s in-house charity, even though its exposure would necessarily raise questions about the endorsement. There wouldn’t have been much time to make the contribution before the endorsement, since that took place on January 25th. The third option could be that the Clintons twisted Sulzberger’s arm to intervene in the endorsement, and then made the payment after they had the endorsement in hand.
One question might be interesting to pursue: how many times did the Clintons donate to this fund before Hillary ran for President, starting in 2007? How many times did they donate between 2009 and 2014? If this is an annual donation that stretches back to 2003-ish, that makes this look much less suspect. Hillary ran for the US Senate twice in New York, so it’s entirely possible that the Clintons were greasing this particular skid for a very long time, for whatever motivation. If this is the only such donation from the CFF in the past decade, it will look a lot more damning.
The truth is that we’ll probably never know whether this was a quid pro quo or not. Even assuming it was, this one would be much less damaging to the Clintons than the quid pro quo on Uranium One or on the approval of sales of chemical arms to suppress the Arab Spring protests for which the Obama administration was actively cheerleading. This arrangement reflects more poorly on the New York Times than the Clintons … and that’s really saying something.